Jesus presented one of the most fundamental mandates to the Church in Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB) which says,
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Understanding Our Influence
As Christ comes to dwell in someone they become different from an average human being, a “new creature” as scripture describes it (see 2 Cor 5:17). This is not a semantic distinction, but one with real impact on everyone we see that is clearly revealed by Jesus’s in Matthew 5. When you look closely at the first part of this scripture you see that it is not a calling but a statement of fact. A Christian “cannot be hidden” even when he or she wants to. Consider how “memorable” it is when a Christian leader falls or is even rumored to have committed sin. It isn’t a coincidence, but a consequence of the power we have as Believers. It is vital that we realize the influence any of us has in the workplace, social organizations, or wherever we find ourselves.
Another reality is that we are faced with a choice as to how we will influence our surroundings. If it is possible to “Let your light shine before men in such a way” that they see the truth and freedom Christ brings, it also possible to project an image that undermines truth. Understanding this inescapable influence is the key to reversing the moral dilemmas that affect society in general. To do this lets look at why the divorce rate in many places is so similar between the Church and the world. Is the world overpowering the will of God’s people?
1 John 4:4 (NASB) provides clear evidence,
4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
The world doesn’t have the power to dictate to the Church. The reason for the problem with divorce is that Christians in some areas have forgotten that God hates divorce and the world is following suite, not the other way around. Judgment “begins” with us (see 1Pe 4:17) because Christ has given us leading authority on earth. When the world is “caving in” from any direction we must look in the mirror to find the source of the problem!
Nothing can replace the Church. Ephesians 5:11 (NASB) says,
11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;
Not only are we called to live the truth, but we are also called to “expose” darkness or that which contradicts the truth. This mandate extends much farther than most in the Church understand or are comfortable going. There are many examples where the Church has given its mandate to speak the truth to sources that will never be able to do it.
One source that the Church is constantly passing its responsibility to is secular government. I recently returned from a trip to a nation that has a constitutional designation as a “Christian Nation.” The problem is that the Church in that nation has become complacent and believed that because of the governmental designation the nation will overcome any darkness that comes its way. Many of the citizens and even some Christians have begun to support a party that is decidedly anti-Christian and has promised to “put more money in your pocket” by giving free education and health care while simultaneously eliminating taxes! This has all come despite the continued protest by the ruling party that the promises are obvious lies, far outside the bounds of rational thought and reality. The fate of the nation in question hangs on the willingness of Christians sounding the alarm. Unless the Church arises to expose these shameful deceptions, a nation known as “Christian” soon won’t be an example anyone wants to follow.
This is not an isolated incident and any country on the earth can fall into trouble without the Church doing its job. Every Christian has an area to influence, big or small. Consider this Psalm as you seek the Lord concerning how He wants you to take responsibility for being the light He has called you to be.
Psalm 12:1-8 (NASB)
1 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. 2 They speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. 3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, The tongue that speaks great things; 4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” 5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” 6 The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times. 7 You, O Lord, will keep them; You will preserve him from this generation forever. 8 The wicked strut about on every side When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.